5 things you should know about Jody Wilson-Raybould

1. Jody Wilson-Raybould is a descendant of the Msugamagw Tsawtaineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach First Nations. It is part of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, also known as the Kwak’wala-speaking people. She is from the Eagle Clan. Her traditional name, Puglass, was given to her by her grandmother in 1976 at a traditional potlatch ceremony. It means woman born to noble people. Wilson-Raybould, also goes by JWR. She was born in Vancouver, B.C., on March 23, 1971. She has a home on Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, where she is a member of its nation.

2. JWR is a Canadian Indigenous lawyer and former politician. From 2000 to 2003, she worked as a provincial Crown prosecutor in Vancouver’s East side, where she worked to reduce the high rate of incarceration, marginalization and inequalities of Indigenous people. She served as the first Indigenous MP for the riding of Vancouver Granville, which at the time, was a new constituency. She held this position from 2015 to 2021. JWR was recruited by Justin Trudeau and appointed Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister. She was attorney general of Canada from 2015-2019, and took on the role of minister of veterans affairs of Canada in January 2019. She was re-elected in 2019 as the first, and only, independent MP for B.C.

She was elected as a councillor for the We Wai Kai Nation and chair of the First Nations Finance Authority. She was a member of the B.C. Treaty Commission. The commission oversees treaty negotiations between Indigenous groups and the Crown. JWR served as regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations from 2009 to 2015.

3. JWR resigned from the federal cabinet in February 2019 at the height of the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal when she refused to bow to political pressure; she could not stay silent and was ejected from the Liberal party. JWR continues to serve as the first female in Canada to be elected as an independent MP for the riding of Vancouver Granville. In 2022, JWR was awarded the province’s highest honour for exceptional contributions to society, the Order of British Columbia.

4. JWR is the bestselling author of three books. In 2021, she wrote a political memoir, “Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power,” a national top 10 read. “Indian in the Cabinet,” describes her experiences of marginalization and discrimination in Ottawa. JWR’s second book, “From Where I Stand; Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada,” published in 2019, contains straight talk about the reconciliation process. Her most recent book, “True Reconciliation: How to be a Force for Change” looks at reconciliation from a learn, understand and act perspective. JWR and her husband co-authored the “BCAFN Governance Toolkit: A Guide to Nation Building,“ a comprehensive survey of the options for negotiating self-government.

5. JWR is the daughter of a hereditary chief. In the 1980s, her father, Bill Wilson, worked on constitutional reform for Aboriginal and treaty rights under former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Her father greatly influenced his two daughters’ career paths, identities and values, as both girls earned law degrees. JWR knew she would grow up to follow in her father’s footsteps and continues to be a leader and advocate of Indigenous people and their rights.

To learn more about Indigenous rights and reconciliation, listen to JWR as she shares in 2021 as part of the Tom Courchene Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by the Queen’s School of Policy Studies.

Joyce Jonathan Crone is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter. She is Mohawk, born on the Six Nations Reserve. A retired teacher, she now makes Huntsville her home.

Joyce Jonathan Crone, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star